HaCKS is back!

As some of you may be aware, HaCKS’ original incarnation ran in the academic year 2015-2016. The project’s aim was to provide a knowledgebase for researchers in sociolinguistics via this blog, and run a seminar series to showcase current research. The project ran with great success and now, after some restructuring of the original format, HaCKS is back!


The main HaCKS team now consists of:


We all share an interest in sociolinguistics and language variation and therefore want to continue expanding on HaCKS’ original foundations.

This year, we will run a programme of workshops and, in addition, will use the blog to continue discussion beyond the topics covered during our events. Our focus for this year’s events is the theory of indexicality. Specifically, we are interested in whether this term is under-theorised in research on language variation. For a more detailed outline of HaCKS’ aims please see here.

We are pleased to report that we have secured WRoCAH funding to run 3 events this academic year (2018-2019)! Each event will be hosted at a different WRoCAH university; The first will happen in the second week of December 2018 in Sheffield, the second in February 2019 in York, and the third will be in April, 2019 hopefully in Leeds (actual dates TBC). Each event will be about 4.5 hours long including lunch (which will be provided!). Our aim is for these sessions to be more conversational than lectures, so each talk will be followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion and there will be a larger discussion at the end of each event.

We will be able to cover your costs for travelling to the events. The events would be excellent networking opportunities! They are primarily aimed at PGRs and ECRs but some of our talks will also be by full time lecturers. If you are interested in attending any of our events, we strongly suggest you register your attendance in advance through Eventbrite, so we are aware of attendance numbers (a link to registration will be posted soon).

We will be posting more information and proper schedules for the events closer to the time, so stay tuned! In the meantime, we will also be posting to our blog. Please do leave your comments and start up discussions about language and society – we want to get the conversation flowing!

If you would be interested in presenting at one of our events, or writing a post for this blog, please do not hesitate to get in contact!


Email: hacksocioling@wrocah.ac.uk

Twitter: @hacksocioling

Facebook group: hacksocioling


Hope to see you soon at one of our events!

Language and identity

One of the most important functions of language is that it allows us to manage our presentation of self and our identities. In the same way that we can, for example, utilise different items of clothing in order to create unique presentations of self, we can also employ a whole range of linguistic resources.  Whereas early quantitative sociolinguistic studies, such as Labov (1966) or Trudgill (1974) understood a speaker’s sociodemographic characteristics (i.e. their gender, age, socioeconomic class or ethnicity) to be the cause of their linguistic practice, contemporary research understands language practice to be constitutive of our social identities. This means that rather than presuming that because I am a woman I will speak in a certain way; we can say that I am perceived to be a woman (in part) due to the way I speak (Cameron 1997). This understanding of the relationship between language and social identities is in keeping with Judith Butler’s (1990) influential theorising about the nature of gender. Butler (1990) argues that there is nothing behind the expression of gender identities other than the performative enactment of such identities.  This has led scholars in sociolinguistics, such as Bucholtz and Hall (2005) to suggest that identities are the emergent products of interactions, something which we construct using linguistic and non-linguistic social practices.

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Top 5 HaCKS for a Sociolinguistics Symposium

The Sociolinguistics Symposia are the world’s largest gatherings of researchers in the field of sociolinguistics and hub to the latest advances in sociolinguistic research. Started in 1976 as a meeting to address the scarcity of sociolinguistic research in the UK, the Sociolinguistics Symposia have now flourished into an international affair as one of the most important events on any sociolinguist’s calendar.

Having attended now my first Sociolinguistics Symposium (SS21) at the University of Murcia just recently, this blog post aims to give practical advice about how to get the most out of (or HaCK, if you excuse the pun) attending a Sociolinguistics Symposium as a young researcher or a newbie to the conference world.

Murcia University Library. Photo by Andrew Bradley.

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Code-switching in Monénembo’s ‘Pelourinho’

Following on from a wonderful guest lecture by Dr Diana Cullell in York last week as part of our Seminar Series, where she outlined some of the intricacies of negotiating linguistic identities when translating Catalan poetry, I wanted to continue the theme of sociolinguistics in literary contexts. As such, in this post I will outline some of the arguments I presented last year for a Masters essay on Tierno Monénembo’s (1995) novel Pelourinho.

The novel is set in the Pelourinho district of Salvador, in the Bahia region of Brazil, and it follows the identity quest of an African visitor named Escritore (also known as Africano) from the point of view of two narrators, Innocencio and Leda. These two characters narrate the novel in a mixture of standard and non-standard French, Portuguese, Yoruba, and occasionally English. The substantial use of colonial languages French and Portuguese situate this novel clearly in the category of Europhone literature, which ‘has no language or cultural universe of its own’ and the only way it gains cultural meaning is through the African heritage (wa Thiong’o 2000: 7), by maintaining a dialogue between colonial (Portuguese, French) and heritage (Yoruba) languages. Continue reading

An Introduction to Accent Discrimination

Diversity is a naturally occurring phenomenon throughout all of life, including language. Despite this everyone has their own idea of what is “correct” when it comes to speech, with some dialects and accents considered “better” than others. Even those who have been specifically taught otherwise can find it difficult not to make an instant judgment about a person solely on the basis of how they speak (Lippi-Green, 1994; Milroy & Milroy, 1991). It is in these moments, when snap judgments are made and not examined or discarded, that accent discrimination can arise.

For many people, the terms accent and dialect do not mean anything more than how someone who is other and different speaks. In fact, many people believe they themselves do not even have an accent (Morley, 1996), something linguists refer to as “the non-accent myth” (Cho, 2010). The word accent itself was originally a Latin translation of the Greek word “prosiodia,” (Vaissiere & Boula De Mareuil, 2004) which was used to differentiate between people who spoke “correctly” and those who did not (Oed.com, 2015). This seems to imply that approaching accents as something that is other is not a new view and has in fact been the prominent language ideology for millennia.

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Historical sociolinguistics – how and why?

Having established in the previous post that sociolinguistics is a broad discipline that encompasses issues of language and society, it is not too much of a leap for us to imagine that we can study language and society in the past as well as the present. Sociolinguistics has a wide scope in terms of its sub-disciplines and also the timespan it can cover. Historical sociolinguistics naturally focuses on language and society in the past. This means that a certain number of practical issues arise for historical sociolinguistics scholars that do not exist in the same way for contemporary sociolinguists. In this post I shall outline just a few of these practical issues in an attempt to address the question: ‘So, how and why do you actually do historical sociolinguistics?’.

To begin addressing this question, we should establish exactly what historical sociolinguistics has in common with contemporary sociolinguistics, before highlighting the practical difficulties and how we overcome these. Historical sociolinguistics (sometimes called socio-historical linguistics) benefits being informed by modern sociolinguistic theory, in particular the uniformitarian principle – ‘the working assumption that the fundamental principles and mechanisms of language variation and change are valid across time’ (Auer et al. 2015: 4). Here we encounter our first problem, since we do not want to impose modern concepts onto past societies and languages anachronistically. Being aware of this pitfall, historical sociolinguistic scholars attempt to overcome this by examining each case individually (Auer et al. 2015: 5). Continue reading

What is sociolinguistics?

Hello! Góðan dag! Merhaba! Xαίρετε!

Welcome to HaCKS, an academically-oriented blog about all things sociolinguistic!

But what exactly is sociolinguistics? This first blog post will introduce this concept to those who are unfamiliar with it and give a better insight into the overarching theme of this blog and indeed our seminar series!

Essentially, sociolinguistics is an academic discipline that studies language and society. 

Sociolinguists must ask themselves how language affects society and how society affects language. Research in sociolinguistics generally concerns how language changes according to social context and the roles language plays in different social processes.The study of sociolinguistics explains not only how and why languages change, but also the different factors that cause it. It unearths the complex and multiple interactions between social actors, the language(s) they speak and the society within which they exist. Since language is a fundamental part of our human society, the scope and application of sociolinguistics is astronomical, not to mention highly interdisciplinary. Continue reading